Mehmet Oz just might be the last person on earth people would expect to get a colon polyp. He’s physically fit (he left me in the dust the last time we ran together), he eats a healthy diet, he doesn’t smoke, and he has no family history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps. But several weeks ago, when Mehmet had his first screening colonoscopy at age 50, I removed a small adenomatous polyp that had the potential to turn into cancer over time. Statistically, most small polyps like his don’t become cancer. But almost all colon cancers begin as benign polyps that gradually become malignant over about 10-15 years. Since there’s no way of knowing which polyps will turn bad, we take them all out. The good news is there’s plenty of opportunity to prevent cancer by removing these polyps while they are still benign. But only about 63 percent of Americans between ages 50 and 75 get screened for colorectal cancer. Patients who smoke, eat diets high in red and processed meats, drink too much alcohol, don’t exercise, and are obese are at increased risk of colorectal cancer. So Mehmet’s healthy lifestyle may actually have protected him from having a bigger polyp – or even colorectal cancer by now. But the bottom line is this: no matter what you do, you can’t totally eliminate your risk of developing this disease, which is expected to strike 143,000 Americans and kill over 51,000 in 2010. About the same number of women is affected as men. And about 70 percent of patients have no family history of colorectal cancer.
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Reduce risk from cancer-causing polyps
A fiber-rich diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans is commonly associated with a lower risk of colon cancer. Yet in one recent large population study, fiber consumption was unconnected to colon cancer occurrence. No randomized clinical trial the most convincing type of human study has shown that increasing peoples dietary fiber decreases the first appearance or recurrence of polyps either. The problem with the randomized clinical trials so far may be their short duration. None has been more than four years long. It is probable that diets affect on colon cancer takes place over a longer period of time. Despite the lack of supporting evidence from randomized clinical trials, you should still eat the lowfat, mostly plant-based diet researchers recommend to lower colon cancer risk. This eating style might inhibit colon cancer in several ways, such as decreasing polyp formation, slowing the growth of polyps, or blocking their transition from benign to cancerous. Other steps you could take to decrease the formation of colon polyps include limiting your red meat consumption and meeting the current recommendations for folate. This nutrient is found in dark green leafy vegetables, orange juice and other plant foods, and its often low in Americans diets. You should also get enough calcium and vitamin D.
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